Madonna and Child
Birth changes everything, including the ambitions of a pop icon. In an exclusive interview with Madonna, Nui Te Koha finds even the most provocative of them all is not immune.
There was a time when Madonna wanted fame at any cost. She traded love for fame, for pursuit of her dreams. And she traded everything for whatever it took to become an icon to a generation.
But even a living legend is allowed to have a change of heart. “I never said I wanted it all,” she insists today. “All I ever wanted to do was go to a better place in my life … have a little adventure.”
Quite simply, Madonna has changed her mind about fame and all that it entails: its many blessings and, equally, its curses.
“But I’m not saying goodbye or that things I did were mistakes or I have a regret or anything like that. It’s more…” she gropes for the right word, “a realisation.”
And a revelation.
In line with the three introspective and near-autobiographical albums she has delivered this decade — Like a Prayer, Erotica and Bedtime Stories — Madonna has saved the toughest talk and most revealing insights for her new record, to be released next month, titled Ray of Light.
Madonna’s ray of light, she says, came to her on the afternoon of October 14, 1996. It was the day she gave birth to a daughter, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon. “She is my savior, she is my strength,” Madonna says.
“She is my greatest work of art.”
I meet Madonna on a dreary day in blustery Miami. For two days she has been holed up in room 202 of the ultra-hip Astor Hotel, in the South Beach precinct of art deco, designer style and wads of cash, extolling a new testament, new perspective and new agenda.
Madonna is, by all accounts, in good spirits, quite unlike the ice maiden who froze over a media conference in Los Angeles less than a week before. “Silly questions” is the consensus, and a means of explanation from her minders. It also, I suspect, serves as some sort of warning. There are two things, I am told, that stand in my favor. The first is the city: Madonna loves being in Miami. The second — and, to Madonna, this is undoubtedly the most important — Lourdes is in the building, upstairs somewhere playing with a nanny and a personal assistant.
Keeping Lourdes close to her mother has been the drill for a while now. She was in the studio when Madonna recorded Ray of Light. Right now, while her mother explains the psyche of her new album, Lourdes is in a room filled with books and toys.
Downstairs, a veritable Who’s Who of bright young things mill about in the hotel foyer.
Film director and comedian Ben Stiller and Hollywood’s photogenic couple du jour, Matt Dillon and Cameron Diaz, are among those bunking down at the Astor tonight.
However, one senses bigger fish in this trendy little pond. A stream of faxes, chairs and bottled water keeps disappearing up the Astor’s beige (the new white, according to Florida’s style police) staircase to Madonna’s room.
Between interviews, Madonna’s thoughts are clearly elsewhere. They drift to the third-floor room where Lourdes is noisily and happily playing.
When it comes to her daughter and wanting to be with her, Madonna’s attempt at restraint is both noble and feeble: she is a pushover. Before long, her will breaks and she darts upstairs for another visit. “I know,” she says, excusing herself from the room briefly, “I’m acting all dorky.”
Actually, she’s acting just like her new record promises.
“When I was young, nothing really mattered to me but making myself happy,” she sings on one of the album’s defining tracks. “Now that I am grown, everything’s changed.”
There is new purpose in her life. A new centre of attention. What isn’t anticipated — especially when you consider that Lourdes Ciccone Leon is arguably the most famous, most fiercely guarded baby in the world — is for this centre of attention to come rambling through the door when Madonna returns for my interview.
But that’s exactly what happens. Madonna’s pride and joy, followed by nanny, then the assistant, stumbles into the room, doing that wobbly lean-walk-about-to-fall thing that babies do. On first impression, the next-generation Ciccone, wearing a pale yellow dress, her dark, curly locks stuffed through a hair tie, is a bundle of precocious energy.
“Say hello to everybody,” Madonna tells Lourdes.
Lourdes surveys the room slowly — she has her father’s dark eyes and her mother’s glare: intense, warm and curious — then thought-fully offers a cheery greeting. “Hello,” she says brightly, and tries to walk to her mother, topples and laughs.